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Ilfracombe RNLI launches to tow 160 tonne fishing trawler with engine failure

Lifeboats News Release

The RNLI Ilfracombe all-weather lifeboat was paged by the coastguard at 12.20p.m. on Saturday 29 May to assist a fishing trawler with engine failure 12 miles off-shore from Ilfracombe.

Shannon class lifeboat alongside 160 tonne orange fishing trawler

RNLI/Nikki Bradshaw

Ilfracombe lifeboat manoeuvres the Our Olivia Belle to mooring

The volunteer crew quickly launched the Shannon class the Barry and Peggy High Foundation and made best speed arriving on scene 25 minutes later. The fishing vessel, the 50 foot long, 160 tonne, Ilfracombe based trawler, Our Olivia Belle had experienced gear box problems and was unable to make way.

The RNLI crew quickly attached a tow line to the Our Olivia Belle and began to tow the trawler back toward the harbour. The crew were able to use the new, large towing bridles fitted recently fitted to the lifeboat for the first time. Conditions were good with a calm sea and slight easterly breeze.

The journey back to Ilfracombe took 3 hours at 2.5 - 3 knots due to the weight of the trawler. On arriving back at Ilfracombe harbour the crew moved to an alongside tow and began to manoeuvre the trawler to moor against the east facing pier. The 18 tonne Shannon lifeboat was able to bring the 160 tonne trawler safely in, assisted by the station shore crew, and then stayed close whilst the final adjustments were made. The lifeboat then returned to the station at 5.30 p.m. where it was cleaned and recovered ready for the next service.

RNLI Volunteer Coxswain Andrew Bengey says. ‘It was extremely challenging moving such a large vessel in a small area, with a fresh breeze pushing the vessel towards the beach. The Shannon really proved itself today as it had the manoeuvrability and power to push the trawler against the pier. It truly is an amazing lifeboat.’ He goes on to say, ‘today’s rescue was all down to teamwork between the lifeboat crew and the professional crew on board the trawler to secure the lines in the right way and the RNLI shore crew who came out to the pier to help secure the vessel. Today’s shout was also good training, as we have two crew, Stuart Carpenter and Ben Bengey, who are training to be Coxswains, and this was good experience for them to be at the wheel towing such a large and heavy vessel which isn’t something we do every day.’

Shannon class lifeboat towing 160 tonne fishing trawler

RNLI/Nikki Bradshaw

Ilfracombe lifeboat tows the Our Olivia Belle fishing trawler

Key facts about the RNLI

The RNLI charity saves lives at sea. Its volunteers provide a 24-hour search and rescue service around the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland coasts. The RNLI operates 238 lifeboat stations in the UK and Ireland and more than 240 lifeguard units on beaches around the UK and Channel Islands. The RNLI is independent of Coastguard and government and depends on voluntary donations and legacies to maintain its rescue service. Since the RNLI was founded in 1824, its lifeboat crews and lifeguards have saved over 142,700 lives.

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Contacting the RNLI - public enquiries

Members of the public may contact the RNLI on 0300 300 9990 (UK) or 1800 991802 (Ireland) or by email.